|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-first General Assembly
44th Meeting (PM)
THIRD COMMITTEE APPROVES TEXT CONDEMNING HOSTAGE-TAKING;
HEARS REPORT BY HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL PRESIDENT
Support Expressed for Convention on Enforced Disappearances;
Opinions Divided Concerning Draft Declaration on Indigenous People
States would be called upon to take all necessary measures to prevent, combat and punish acts of hostage-taking, under the terms of a draft resolution adopted today, by consensus, by the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural).
By the terms of the draft, the General Assembly would reaffirm that hostage-taking was a serious and unjustifiable crime aimed at destroying human rights, and would condemn all acts of hostage-taking, anywhere in the world. It would demand that all hostages be released immediately and unconditionally. The resolution, whose main sponsor was the Russian Federation, recalled Security Council resolutions condemning all cases of terrorism, in particular resolution 1440 of 24 October 2002, condemning a hostage incident in Moscow the day before.
The representatives of the United States and Finland, on behalf of the European Union, said their delegations had joined the consensus on adoption of the draft resolution, despite some reservations over the text.
Also today, the Committee was urged to adopt the draft International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances and the draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which were referred to the General Assembly by the Human Rights Council. The President of the Council, Luis Alfonso de Alba of Mexico, told the Committee that the two important international instruments were the outcome of decades of work and lengthy negotiations and should be adopted as soon as possible.
Following Mr. de Alba’s brief statement, the Committee resumed its general discussion on the report of the Human Rights Council. While some delegations focused on the two international instruments before the Committee, others took the opportunity to discuss the work of the Council during its first months of operations.
Several delegations expressed their strong support for the Convention on enforced disappearances, and none expressed opposition. However, opinions were divided on the draft Declaration on indigenous peoples.
The representative of Botswana said his delegation was deeply disturbed that the Declaration on indigenous peoples, adopted by the Council, did not take into account the legitimate concerns of several Member States. The Declaration lacked a definition of indigenous people, he said, thus opening the door for any group or community to identify itself as indigenous. Further, it gave blanket recognition to the right of regional, ethnic and tribal groups, in general, to full political and economic self-determination, which was unacceptable. The Declaration should clearly balance the rights of a group or tribe versus the rights of a nation as a whole, he said. He asked the co-sponsors of the draft resolution and Declaration to be flexible and willing to improve the text.
The representative of Canada objected to the process used to finalize the draft Declaration. His delegation’s request for additional time to negotiate and address various concerns had not been successful, he said, which obliged it to oppose adoption of the text. He said Canada remained committed to working domestically and internationally on indigenous issues.
Speaking in support of the Declaration, the representative of Mexico urged States not to delay any longer in adopting such an important instrument. After more than 20 years of negotiations, adoption of the Declaration could no longer be postponed. The text, while not perfect, represented the maximum consensus reached by States together with representatives of indigenous peoples.
Her delegation was aware that several States had expressed concerns over aspects of the draft Declaration, including its provisions on issues such as self-determination, land rights and resources, as well as the lack of a definition of indigenous peoples. While those were sensitive issues, her delegation believed that the text contained the necessary safeguards to preserve the integrity of States while providing for the human rights of indigenous persons. At present, it was not possible to do more, nor to do less, she said.
The representative of Brazil said that his delegation supported the Declaration, despite differences over some aspects of the text. The Declaration recognized the contributions of indigenous peoples to the spiritual and material development of their countries and would contribute to combating discrimination, he said.
China’s representative focused her remarks on the work of the Council overall, saying that, so far, its record had been mixed. She said that all sides must put a firm end to malicious attacks and the practice of submitting country-specific resolutions. Member States must remain vigilant against returning to the old path of political confrontation, which had characterized the work of the Commission on Human Rights.
She suggested that the Council focus initially on procedural matters and institution-building. Her delegation also stressed that the relationship between the Council and the Third Committee should be arranged properly. China believed that the Third Committee, as the main committee of the Assembly responsible for the consideration of human rights issues, was the appropriate forum to consider the annual report of the Human Rights Council.
Also making statements today were the representatives of Sudan, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Guatemala, Belarus, Denmark, Japan, Indonesia, Cuba, Algeria, Syria and Colombia.
The observer of the Holy See also spoke, as did a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The Committee is expected to resume its work at 3 p.m. Monday, 13 November, to take action on a draft resolution on the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances. The Committee is also expected to hear the introduction of a number of other draft resolutions, to be listed in that day’s edition of the Journal.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to consider the first report of the Human Rights Council (document A/61/53) and resume its general discussion on that subject. The Committee also had before it the Secretary-General’s report on revised estimates resulting from resolutions and decisions adopted by the Human Rights Council in 2006 (document A/61/530). That report notes that the Council’s actions, in 2006, required $6,033,300, of which $4,328,600 was already included in the programme budget for the biennium 2006-2007. The balance of $1,704,700 could be absorbed within the resources already provided for in the biennium 2006-2007. Requirements relating to the biennium 2008-2009 would be considered in the context of the proposed programme budget for that period. For more background, please see Press Release GA/SHC/3865 of 1 November.
The Committee also was expected to take action on a draft resolution on hostage-taking (document A/C.3/61/L.44), which would have the General Assembly call upon States to take all necessary measures, in accordance with international humanitarian law and human rights standards, to prevent, combat and punish acts of hostage-taking, including by strengthening international cooperation. The Assembly would reaffirm that hostage-taking was a serious crime, aimed at the destruction of human rights and unjustifiable under any circumstances. It would condemn all acts of hostage-taking, anywhere in the world, and demand that all hostages be released immediately and without any preconditions.
Action on Draft Resolution
The Committee began its meeting by considering the draft resolution on hostage-taking (document A/C.3/61/L.44).
The representative of the Russian Federation, the main sponsor of the draft, said that 98 per cent of its wording was comprised of texts already adopted by the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council. It was hoped that it could be adopted without a vote.
The Committee then adopted the draft by consensus.
Speaking afterwards, the representative of the United States said that his country was joining the consensus on the understanding that, in times of armed conflict, international humanitarian law was the appropriate body of law governing the conduct of those involved in such conflict. The United States believed that hostage-taking was a crime under international humanitarian law, and noted, in that regard, that it was a grave breach of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949.
The representative of Finland, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the European Union had had concerns about some elements of the draft, and that not all of those concerns had been accommodated. Nevertheless, it joined the consensus. Regarding the sixth paragraph in the preamble, the European Union considered that hostage-taking might be a war crime, within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, pursuant to its own statutes.
Report of the Human Rights Council
LUIS ALFONSO DE ALBA ( Mexico), President of the Human Rights Council, focused on the recommendations presented by the Council to the General Assembly, related to the development of international human rights law. The Council had adopted, at its first session, the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Those two instruments were the outcome of decades of work and lengthy negotiations.
The Convention on enforced disappearances was an important legal instrument that enshrined the right not to be subjected to enforced disappearances, and recognized the right to justice and compensation, he said. The Declaration on indigenous peoples responded to the demands of indigenous peoples around the world and was the outcome of long negotiations that began in the then Subcommission on the Protection of Minorities in 1985. He repeated his appeal that both instruments recommended by the Human Rights Council would be adopted, by the General Assembly, as soon as possible.
IDREES MOHAMED ALI MOHAMED SAEED ( Sudan) said the establishment of the Human Rights Council had been a breakthrough, in a world that had seen changes in the balance of power -- changes that the United Nations, with its current structure, could no longer address. A lot of water had gone under the bridge and a new international paradigm had emerged. New blood was needed in the veins of an indispensable human rights forum. The resolution of the General Assembly, under which the Council had been created, had been the result of painstaking and lengthy negotiations that had dealt, comprehensively, with the experiences of the former Commission on Human Rights, with a view to improving and developing its work.
For some international powers, the Commission had been an arena exploited for political reasons, at the cost of its credibility, he said. Resolutions had targeted certain States, putting a Damocles sword over certain developing countries. The Commission had never dared to submit a communiqué that would reflect at least part of the violations of human rights perpetrated by the accusing countries. The Council had been designed to redress that situation; no one State would have more power than another, and human rights would be treated in an unbiased and universal way, without distinctions. Sudan aspired for the Council to carry out its mission, without any influence or pressure from whatever quarter. Some countries had attempted to revert to the old hateful practices, so as to achieve outdated political objections; such trends had to be resisted. The Third Committee was considering the report of the Council in exercise of its role in protecting human rights, fully aware of its responsibilities as the best arena for enriching human rights through dialogue.
JANNE JOKINEN (Finland), speaking also on behalf of the European Union, noted that the General Assembly had heard the presentation of the report of the Human Rights Council this morning. The Union understood that the Third Committee was only to consider and act on the recommendations of the Human Rights Council to the General Assembly, namely, on the adoption of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances and on the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The European Union noted that the decision made by the General Assembly on the allocation of the Human Rights Council report, as well as the decision made by the Third Committee to invite the Council’s President to address it, were transitional arrangements and should not set precedents for the future.
The establishment of a comprehensive framework of international human rights law was one of the major accomplishments of the United Nations, she said. In that regard, the European Union attached great importance to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Convention would be a powerful tool to prevent enforced disappearances and fight impunity for that crime. The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was the result of a long and thorough drafting process, which involved representatives of indigenous peoples on an equal basis with Member States and was, in that regard, unique in United Nations standard-setting practice. The European Union considered the Declaration a valuable addition to United Nations instruments for the protection and promotion of human rights.
CHRISTIAN WENAWESER ( Liechtenstein) was pleased to note that the General Assembly had referred the report of the Human Rights Council to the Third Committee and the Plenary, establishing a division of work, which reflected the letter and spirit of the Assembly resolution that established the Council and its mandate. Today, the Third Committee was called upon to consider and act upon the recommendations made by the Council for the adoption of two new legal instruments in the field of human rights. Those two recommendations -– for adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances –- constituted the most important achievements in the young history of the Human Rights Council.
It was time for the Third Committee and the General Assembly to adopt the draft Declaration on indigenous peoples and to unequivocally reaffirm the strong commitment to the universality of all human rights. The introduction of the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to internal and local affairs, including their financial aspect, offered a promising new approach, which could help to genuinely address the needs of many peoples, indigenous and others. His delegation also was very pleased that the draft Convention on enforced disappearances was ready for adoption, as it translated the political commitment of the international community to prevent enforced disappearances and to end impunity for such crimes into concrete, legally binding provisions.
NATALIE KOHLI ( Switzerland) recalled that her country had been a co-sponsor of the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and had welcomed its adoption at the first session of the Human Rights Council in June. It had been a compromise that enjoyed the support of the vast majority of States and of all indigenous peoples represented in the working group of the Commission on Human Rights. Its adoption, by the Third Committee and the General Assembly, hopefully by consensus, would send a strong political signal. Such adoption would also make the Declaration the principle source of inspiration of the policies, legislation and practices of States, in the area of indigenous peoples.
Switzerland had also been involved in negotiating the Convention on forced disappearances, and had welcomed its adoption, by consensus, by the Council, in June. It, too, should be adopted, by the Committee and the Assembly, without a vote, as it would send a strong political signal in the struggle against forced disappearances, a phenomenon that had ravaged Latin America and that did not spare any continent, Europe included.
ZHANG DAN ( China) said her delegation’s feeling toward the work of the Human Rights Council was mixed. She noted that the Council had achieved some positive results and that the first session was held in a harmonious and friendly atmosphere conducive to dialogue. On the other hand, the second session of the Council had given rise to disappointment and concern. According to the General Assembly resolution, the Council should, during its first year of work, focus on developing its working methods, particularly on setting the modality of universal periodic review and the assessment of various mechanisms under the former Commission on Human Rights. However, 47 draft resolutions, irrelevant to those topics, had been submitted to the second session and could not be considered within the scheduled time frame. Moreover, she pointed out that the dialogue with the special procedures was shrouded in an increasingly confrontational atmosphere, particularly when country-specific human rights issues were raised.
She recalled that General Assembly resolution 60/251 had clearly stated that the work of the Human Rights Council must be guided by cooperation and dialogue and ensure that all human rights were treated according to the principle of universality, impartiality and non-selectivity.
She said her delegation had several suggestions to guide the future work of the Council. First, the spirit of the General Assembly resolution should be strictly adhered to, and all sides must put a firm end to malicious attacks and the practice of submitting country-specific resolutions. Member States must remain vigilant against returning to the old path of political confrontation, which had characterized the work of the Commission on Human Rights. Second, the Council was in a critical stage of institution-building and should focus on the discussion of procedural matters. Third, the future agenda and resource allocation of the Council should give due attention to the right to development and eradication of poverty, identified by the High Commissioner for Human Rights as priority tasks for that period. Fourth, the relationship between the Council and the Third Committee of the General Assembly should be arranged properly. China believed that the Third Committee, as the main committee of the Assembly responsible for the consideration of human rights issues, was the appropriate forum to consider the annual report of the Human Rights Council. In the meantime, the Committee should also avoid duplication with the Council.
BORIS V. CHERNENKO ( Russian Federation) said that the Human Rights Council’s attention to procedural matters should not prevent it from addressing specific tasks in the area of human rights. In particular, the decision to institute a universal periodic review was an innovative mechanism, seen as a way to depoliticize the work of the Council and free it from a reputation for double-standards and lecturing. However, there was still a long way to go before that mechanism could be launched. An intersessional open-ended working group had been established, but unfortunately, its work had not yet begun. His delegation hoped the working group would begin its activities soon, and make up for lost time.
He highlighted a similar problem, regarding the open-ended working group on special procedures. The Human Rights Council had extended all mandates of the special procedures for one year, so that, in that period of time, it could analyse and perhaps reassess those mandates. However, that task still had a long way to go. The issue of special procedures was one of the most pressing issues, in terms of the work of the Human Rights Council and in terms of overcoming the weaknesses of the Commission on Human Rights. His delegation supported the proposal, made in Geneva, by the African Group, to adopt a code of conduct for the special procedures that would enshrine the principle of constructive cooperation with States. His delegation also supported preserving the Subcommission on the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights with its broad research functions.
OTO AGRIPPINO MAIA (Brazil), speaking on behalf of the member States of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), said those countries believed it was of fundamental importance that the General Assembly adopt the draft International Convention on Enforced Disappearances, which was approved by the Human Rights Council this year. MERCOSUR countries had experienced the practice of enforced disappearances during the military dictatorships that governed their countries. Far from being an exclusive part of their past, enforced disappearances were a current horror. Every day, men and women disappeared, were kidnapped by security forces of States that had denied having detained them. The Convention was an essential tool to prevent and combat the scourge of enforced disappearances. It constituted, as well, a substantive contribution to the progressive development of international human rights law, as it recognized the act as a crime against humanity, while reaffirming the right to reparation, justice and truth. They hoped the Convention could be adopted by the General Assembly by consensus.
The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, an important instrument also approved by the Human Rights Council, recognized diversity as “a wealth of countries”, as well as the contributions of indigenous peoples to the spiritual and material development of their countries. They were convinced that the Declaration would contribute to combating discrimination against indigenous peoples, and promote a more harmonious relationship with them. Despite their differences over some aspects of the text, they would support its adoption, by the Assembly, because they believed that it would be of great significance for the promotion of human rights in their societies.
XÓCHITL GÁLVEZ RUIZ (Mexico) said that the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples were historic steps forward in the development of the international human rights framework. Now, the General Assembly had the responsibility to adopt those instruments during the current session. The Convention was an important tool to help ending the practice of enforced disappearances. Of particular relevance was its definition of the systematic practice of enforced disappearances as a crime against humanity.
After more than 20 years of negotiations, adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples could no longer be postponed, she said. The text, while not perfect, represented the maximum consensus reached by States together with representatives of indigenous peoples. Her delegation was aware that several States had expressed concerns over aspects of the draft Declaration, including its provisions on issues such as self-determination, land rights and resources, as well as the lack of a definition of indigenous peoples. While those were sensitive issues, her delegation believed that the text contained the necessary safeguards to preserve the integrity of States, while providing for the human rights of indigenous persons. At this stage, it was not possible to do more, or to do less. She urged States not to delay any longer in adopting such an important instrument.
JORGE SKINNER-KLÉE ( Guatemala) said his country had made every effort, with other States and with indigenous peoples, to obtain a consensus Declaration on Indigenous Peoples that would take into the rights of indigenous peoples and States. Great care had been taken that the Declaration was in line with the principles of human rights and international law, while giving dignity to indigenous peoples. The objective of a well-balanced and useful instrument had been achieved.
The Declaration was not only historic, but also a true guide for States, regarding the human condition of indigenous peoples and compensation for past inequalities. The Declaration had been adopted by the Human Rights Council without any problems; the same task now fell upon the Third Committee and the General Assembly. To those delegations that had expressed reservations, they could still help to adopt the Declaration in a broad spirit of consensus.
ANDREI TARANDA ( Belarus) said the Human Rights Council, a new body, was in an important phase of its consolidation. Important decisions had been taken to make it possible to objectively assess the legacy of the Commission on Human Rights. Great hopes now were pinned on the Council to prove its validity and to address human rights violations in the United States and in the European Union, the torture and cruel treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, and the arbitrary detention and transfers of persons suspected of terrorist activities.
The Council would have to take effective measures to prevent human rights abuses and to address the root causes of such abuses that were of a socio-economic nature. During the planned analysis and streamlining of mechanisms, Belarus would be advocating the maintaining and strengthening of those special procedures that had not been set up for political purposes. The Third Committee would soon be taking decisions on country-specific resolutions, a negative vestige of the Commission that ran counter to the mechanism being set up for universal periodic review. Member States were called upon to reject country-specific resolutions that were counter-productive.
TYGE LEHMANN ( Denmark) said that the draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples represented a milestone. The Declaration took a rights-based approach, but did not present those rights as legally binding or as absolute rights from which no exemption could be made. It was a compromise document reaching out to indigenous peoples and States alike. He drew attention to the last preambular paragraph and last operative article of the Declaration, which stated that the text represented a standard of achievement to be pursued in a spirit of partnership and mutual respect, and which preserved the fundamental interests of third parties, as well as of States. That was not the language of confrontation, but the language of dialogue. What the Declaration required was nothing but the partnership in action, between States and indigenous peoples, reflecting the process by which the text had been elaborated over the last 20 years. It also corresponded well with the partnership developed over the years between Denmark and the indigenous peoples of Greenland, he noted.
Adopting the landmark Declaration would be a historic step in advancing the rights and aspirations of the world’s indigenous peoples, he said. Denmark strongly appealed to all States to adopt the Declaration unanimously, without a vote, or, even better, by acclamation.
MIKIKO OTANI ( Japan) noting the importance of standard-setting in the work of the United Nations, said that the two international instruments before the Committee represented the first substantive outcomes of the Human Rights Council. In particular, Japan strongly supported the draft Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances. Her delegation hoped the Committee would adopt it without delay.
JONNY SINAGA ( Indonesia) said there were positive concrete developments concerning the participation of non-governmental organizations during the first three months of the Human Rights Council’s work. Although the Council was a subsidiary body of the General Assembly, resolution 60/251 permitted non-governmental organizations to participate in Assembly proceedings, based on an Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) concession arising from Council resolution 1996/31 of 25 July 1996, as well as the convention established by its predecessor, the Commission on Human Rights. The Council should fully observe the principle, contained in resolution 60/251, that the promotion and protection of human rights be based on cooperation and genuine dialogue and aimed at strengthening Member States ability to comply with human rights obligations.
He expressed hope that the Council would create an environment that encouraged universal, non-selective and objective treatment of human rights issues worldwide. The Commission on Human Rights had not enjoyed the full support and confidence of Member States. In contrast, the Council should maintain and continue to enjoy such support. The Council’s early work was crucial to its progress and would significantly help build confidence in it. In order to clear up confusion over the status of the Council’s annual report to the Assembly, it would be wise for the Council to use its next session to discuss and agree on a work cycle and thus differentiate between the main session and the round-up session, concerning launching of the annual report.
HENRI-PAUL NORMANDIN ( Canada) welcomed the full consideration of the report of the Human Rights Council in the General Assembly, which he firmly believed should be undertaken within the Assembly’s plenary. He said the Council could avoid the pitfalls of the Commission if it adopted a new culture and working methods, extended to its relationship with the General Assembly.
He said Canada had long been committed to combating enforced disappearances, and described the various steps it had taken in this direction, and he was therefore pleased to support the adoption of the Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances.
Turning to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, he said Canada had worked for twenty years to promote and protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of every indigenous person, and he had high hopes for an effective Declaration. In order to promote and develop harmonious relations between States and indigenous peoples, the Declaration must set out expectations for the States in which indigenous peoples lived, which had not been achieved in the actual text of the Declaration. He was also concerned about the process used to finalize the draft declaration, as key provisions were made, by the Chairperson-Rapporteur, that did not benefit from discussions between States and indigenous representatives. He said Canada had therefore requested additional time to negotiate and address those concerns, but had not been successful, which obliged it to oppose adoption of the text. He said Canada remained committed to working domestically and internationally on indigenous issues.
ARCHBISHOP CELESTINO MIGLIORE, Observer of the Holy See, expressed regret that consensus had not been possible when the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples had been brought before the Human Rights Council. It would have been preferable if it had received wider support, especially from States with significant indigenous populations, so as to have had its intended impact.
Indigenous peoples had consistently been among the poorest, least healthy, least educated and generally socially excluded strata of their respective populations, he said. In many places, attitudes had been changing, but a great deal still needed to be done. Rather than becoming a source of political division and discord, the declaration ought to be a tool for the protection of the dignity of indigenous peoples and for their economic and social promotion.
YURI ARIEL GALA LOPEZ ( Cuba) said his country had always been convinced of the need of establishing the Human Rights Council, in spite of the risks that emanated from the decided modalities. He appreciated that Cuba’s presence in the Council as a founding member had been possible, thanks to the support of many States, and he pledged Cuba’s presence in any international scene open to non-discriminatory participation of all interested in cooperation and dialogue. However, he noted that the Council had a limited membership, and it was therefore appropriate that the General Committee of the General Assembly had foreseen that the Third Committee consider the report and act on all submitted recommendations.
He said it was not fortuitous that the resolution establishing the Council had acknowledged the importance of guaranteeing the universality, objectivity and non-selectivity of the review of the human rights questions and the elimination of the double-standards and politicization. The first report of the Council showed that it was not easy to avoid infection of the new subsidiary body with “the hideous inheritance of the defenestrated Commission,” for instance, the failure of some western countries to endorse important resolutions addressing incitement of racial and religious hatred and the situation of human rights in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories.
The working groups that were defining the modalities of the universal periodic review mechanism and reviewing the mandates, mechanisms, functions, and responsibilities of the Commission should advance in parallel and conclude their mandates simultaneously. “The Assembly should not allow a group of countries to privilege the successful conclusion of a mandate of one those Groups, while blocking the achievement of an agreement in the other,” he said.
He called for avoiding a situation in which the new Council became a battle field, like the late Commission. A radical change was required in conceptions and methods to create a true system of promotion and protection of all human rights for all people, not only the rich and privileged, to which he pledged Cuba’s cooperation. However, he made it clear that Cuba could not: uphold lies and act with hypocrisy; cooperate with spurious mandates imposed by force and blackmail; keep silent on the “cruel economic blockade that we have suffered for over four decades”; or, stop demanding the return to Cuba of five “pure and valiant Cuban young anti-terrorist fighters, who are unjustly and illegally imprisoned in US jails.” But, he said, if the Council was misused and turned into “a new inquisition tribunal to sanction the peoples of the South,” his country would denounce and fight those who resort to force, confrontation, and deception.
SAMUEL OUTLULE ( Botswana) said he regretted that the Human Rights Council had adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by vote. He was deeply disturbed that the Declaration did not take into account the legitimate concerns of several Member States. The document suggested that certain groups had the right to claim to be the sole indigenous peoples of specific regions of a sovereign Republic. It failed to take African history into account. Rather, it had a one-size-fits-all approach. He asked that the co-sponsors of the draft resolution and Declaration be flexible and willing to improve the text. The Declaration lacked a definition of indigenous people, thus opening the door for any group or community to identify itself as indigenous. Further, it gave blanket recognition to the right of regional, ethnic and tribal groups, in general, to full political and economic self-determination, as set out in Articles 3, 4 and 5 of the United Nations Charter. That introduced a new meaning of self-determination and was therefore unacceptable. The Declaration should clearly balance the rights of a group or tribe versus the rights of a nation as a whole.
The Declaration must take into account the post-independence arrangements of different countries, he continued. In its current form, the Declaration sought to restore all mineral and natural resource rights to tribes and thus reverse what the people had decided and harmoniously implemented for more than 40 years following Botswana’s independence. Article 25 of the Declaration, which advocated unrestricted use or exploitation of natural resources, would lead to breaches of treaty obligations, such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the Convention on Biodiversity. Moreover, it would result in extinction of the resources protected by Botswana’s conservation and wildlife management laws. Many complex and contentious issues of the Declaration must be addressed.
MOURAD BENMEHDI ( Algeria) said that, to his delegation, it was incontestable for the report of the Human Rights Council to have been referred to the Third Committee, as the Committee had been charged, by the General Assembly, with dealing with human rights questions. The report had to be considered as an interim document on the state of implementation of institutional and procedural aspects. The Council’s decision, at its first session, to examine the situation of human rights in Palestine, and of incitement to racial and religious hatred and the promotion of tolerance, had responded in good time to the urgent character of those two questions.
Regarding the Declaration on Indigenous Peoples, he said, a text of such importance should not have been hastily put to a vote before the Council that was in the process of putting its working methods into place. That had been the wrong way to go, and Algeria therefore felt that the General Assembly should reflect carefully upon the Declaration with a view to its adoption by consensus.
WARIF HALABI ( Syria) said her delegation attached great importance to the work of the Human Rights Council. She hailed the holding of two special sessions by the Council to consider the human rights situations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and in Lebanon because of Israeli military operations. Her delegation saluted the resolutions adopted by the Council on those subjects and stood ready to ensure that there were adequate resources to implement them.
CLAUDIA BLUM ( Colombia) said it was most important for the Human Rights Council to examine, improve and rationalize all of its mandates, mechanisms and responsibilities, in tandem with the establishment of the periodic universal review. For more effective results in the area of human rights, it was important for the Council to retain only those procedures that were indispensable and that met reasonable criteria, without duplication or parallelism in work. Colombia hoped that the work of the Council would allow for the design of a more effective and organized system that would promote cooperation and dialogue.
During its first session, the Council had tackled significant issues such as the right to development, effective application of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, and other matters relating to economic, social and cultural rights, she said. Colombia lamented the fact that the Council had not made a greater effort to agree on a more precise text of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that would have represented concrete benefits for indigenous peoples around the world; such a text would surely have received the necessary consensus.
CRISTINA PELLANDINI, of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC),noted that the prohibition on enforced disappearances allowed no exception. No war and no national security imperative could justify enforced disappearances, and the Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances was the first International Treaty to explicitly ban related practices.
For its part, the ICRC was working tirelessly to prevent enforced disappearances, and had carried out visits to nearly 2,600 places of detention in 76 countries, she said. Those visits had benefited more than half a million detainees. ICRC delegates also had followed up on more than 46,000 detainees who were previously registered and enabled some 100,000 messages to be exchanged between detainees and their families. The ICRC called on States to put more effort into preventing persons from going missing, ascertaining their fate and alleviating the suffering caused by those disappearances. Her organization paid tribute to the courage of families who were kept in the dark about their relatives and strongly urged Member States to adopt the Convention at the current session and to ratify it as swiftly as possible.
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